02 May 2010

Ladies who choose not to have babies are not broken

Confession time! I totally watch Grey's Anatomy. It is not my favorite show ever or anything, but I watch it. So, I'm going to talk about how the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy (season 6, episode 20, "Hook, Line and Sinner") made me super happy.

(This video will expire on June 4th.)

In this episode, the baby conversation between Arizona and Callie reaches a breaking point. Callie desperately wants a big family and Arizona, despite being a pediatric surgeon, doesn't want any kids. This is obviously Not a Good Thing. They've been arguing about it for a while, with Callie suggesting that Arizona is basically screwed up, and Arizona telling her that she likes her life the way it is. From the episode (about 10 seconds in):
Callie: No! It doesn't make any sense! And everybody wants a kid, and you of all people--you wear roller skates for shoes! I don't get it!
Arizona: You know what, I don't know. Maybe there's something wrong with me. (Callie scoffs.) 'Cause it's not natural. It's not womanly. Maybe I'm cold and heartless and dead inside.
Callie: No, I'm not saying that!
Arizona: Well, yeah, but a little bit, you are.
Callie: No. No. (sits on the bed with Arizona)
Callie: You know what, just humor me for one minute, okay? Close your eyes. (Arizona hesitates.) Close your eyes. (Arizona closes her eyes) Picture a baby. A warm, smushy little...baby. Wrapping its chubby little arms around your neck. And breathe in that...that intoxicating baby smell. Doesn't it just melt you?
Arizona: (Raises eyebrows) Nope. You know what melts me? Spain. The beach. You in a bikini. Me holding a sangria. (Callie scoffs some more.) Oh. Wait. What's that I hear? Oh, the baby's crying. We can't go to Spain!
Callie: A sangria? That's why I don't get a kid? I can make you a frickin' sangria.
I sort of hate Callie at this point, though I really shouldn't. They're not fighting because Callie is being unreasonable. They're fighting because they don't agree on what they want in their future, and that's a Big Fucking Deal. And while her little fantasy of smushy baby smell grosses me out a little, it's not a bad thing in itself. What is bad is that she assumes that Arizona is a fucked up person for not wanting it, too. What's bad is that she automatically deems Arizona's Spain fantasy as deficient, and shallow, and frivolous in comparison to her own. And it gets worse (about 31:15 in):
Callie: I get it. You watch parents go through horrible, unimaginable pain. Every day. And, you went through horrible and unimaginable pain when you lost your brother. And your parent's never got over it. But if we had a baby...our baby's not gonna be one of those kids in your NICU. Our baby won't be your brother. I mean, knock on wood, but--Do you know how happy our baby would be?
Arizona: I'm gonna say this once and then I'm not gonna say it again. I'm not broken. I'm not some psycho trauma. My lack of interest in having a child is not some pathology that you can pat yourself on the back for having diagnosed. I like me life. I like it the way it is. I don't want it to change! I thought I liked it with you in it. I hope I'm not wrong. (Stands up to leave)
Callie: Wait. (Grabs her arm. Arizona walks out.)
Hot damn. It's been...well, never, since I've seen a sympathetic and not-pathologized childless woman by choice on television. Women who don't want kids are usually portrayed in our culture as bad employees (because they're immature, cold, and a little crazy); selfish (either for not doing their nationalistic duty or for wanting to focus on themselves); or victims of feminism, elective abortion, and birth control. Callie's instinct in this episode (and Mark's)--to diagnose and pathologize Arizona's thought-out decision not to have children--is perfectly normal. And perfectly reprehensible. I applauded Grey's Anatomy when I watched it last night, for allowing a childfree-by-choice lady character to forcefully resist pathologization of her decision. Yay!

I'm young (23), so the reactions I get to my own decision not to have children are usually of the "Well, you'll change your mind" theme. I can't tell you how frustrating this is. Very few people I know take this decision seriously, or believe that I've spent any time at all thinking about it. (Over three years, if you're curious.) I'm starting to wonder at what age I'll finally be taken seriously about this decision. From what I've read on the internet, NEVER. So, yay about that.


Michelle Bell said...

Two things: First, I feel you on the whole "no-kids" thing. I don't know if I'll ever want children at any point in my life. I sure know I don't want them now. I'm sort of at this point where if they shouldn't happen, I'm very much okay with that. I'm at 24, so I get a lot of the "you'll change your mind" things. (I also work with pregnant women and families, so there's an automatic assumption that OF COURSE I'll have many children and blah blah blah). It is nice to see a media portrayal of a woman who is child-free and not the "bad guy".

Second: Midwifery training has ruined any media birth for me. The birth scene in the first couple of minutes drives me nuts. If the baby isn't breathing, YOU DON'T CLAMP THE CORD because it's still pulsing and providing oxygen. Also, postural drainage and warmth, damn it. /rant I am better now.

Lacey said...

Hey! I love your take on this episode. I cringed when Callie "realized" that OF COURSE Arizona wouldn't want babies since her brother died, and clapped when Arizona stood up for her decision and didn't allow Callie to pathologize her.

On an unrelated noted, I saw this a few days ago and thought of you, since I know you game (I have that right, right?): http://www.boingboing.net/2010/04/19/chimerical-avatars-a.html
I've thought about gaming avatars in relation to gender, but not race. The comments on this post are pretty striking, too.

Fin said...

at 31, i still don't want kids. my last girlfriend did not get this At All. i told her the only thing that had ever made me want kids was her reaction to them, which was indeed precious. she saw rainbows and sparkles and unicorns; i saw a small being dripping body fluids.

i like kids; i just have zero desire to raise one of my own. doesn't matter how cute the kid is, that "awwww" doesn't translate into "awwwwwWANT." somehow my gf decided this meant i hated kids. sigh.

current gf feels the same way i do. yay for people getting it :)

Virginia Pickel said...

I was so glad Arizona said all that about it NOT being psycho trauma. I had a much better comment planned out, but I'm a little out of it, so I will just say great job!!

Courtney said...

YES I am. Not super seriously, but mostly because I don't have the time, and I find television to be more engaging and awesome than most video games.

That is an interesting article. It makes me think of the cosplay post I just did. Oh jeezus, though, the comments. About three in and I wanted to smack someone. They're all, "It's racist to notice race in video games! You should be glad black people are even an option! Because I'll always have the option to choose a character who looks somewhat like me, no matter what characteristics I want, I can be a total fucking douche!" Maybe I'll do a post about this soon. Thanks!

Satan said...

yep, i'm 25, i've been telling people i don't want kids since i was fifteen. "wait ten years," they said.

okay, i waited, still don't want them.
"well you're still young, wait ten years," they say...

what, will they believe me by the time i'm 60 that i don't want kids, or will i be putting up with the "aww they're so adorable don't you just want a million?" line every time i pick up one of my friend's kids? i'm fine being an aunt.
i don't hate kids. yet either people do assume you really loathe kids, or that you can't have them, or you're defective for not wanting them. it's total crap; you can't win. if you don't fall into the whole "biological clock women want only babies" claptrap argument, then they just don't know what box to stick you in...
and that just won't do at all, will it?


Rochelle said...

Fuckin' A! I love the response that Arizona gives. It really is arrogant of people to 'diagnose' childfree people.